A rocky week for immigration reform

Liz Goodwin
Senior National Affairs Reporter
The Ticket
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It's been a tough week for supporters of immigration reform.

On Friday, a few Republican senators expressed their reservations about the sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration laws on the first day it was brought to debate on the Senate floor. Just the day before, nearly the entire House Republican caucus voted to strip the temporary legal status the Obama administration has offered young unauthorized immigrants since last year, which sent a strong message that the legalization portion of immigration reform could face an uphill battle in the chamber.

On a mostly party-line vote of 224-201, the House voted for an amendment Thursday introduced by immigration hawk Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to reverse President Barack Obama's policy of not deporting young immigrants known as "dreamers" who were brought to the country as children, attend or have graduated high school, and have committed no crime. The amendment, which is now attached to a Department of Homeland Security spending bill, isn't likely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate or make it past President Barack Obama's desk.

But the vote cast doubts on reform proponents' gamble that Republicans, faced with a bruising 2012 election loss spurred on by a poor showing with Hispanic voters, will line up behind immigration reform to broaden their party's appeal despite some objections among the GOP base.

Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-reform America's Voice advocacy group, said he believes the House wanted to send a signal to the Obama administration about its use of executive power, since the deportation relief never passed Congress.

"They were taking a shot at Obama and executive authority," Sharry said on a conference call with reporters Friday. "I'm sure many of them thought, we're not against 'dreamers,' we're against Obama."

Sharry added, "It's not helpful, but I don't think it's fatal."

The Dream Act Coalition, an advocacy group for young unauthorized immigrants, took a less optimistic view.

"Today’s vote to pass Rep. King’s amendment shows the Republican party ever more moving to the extreme right and allowing obstruction to be their official policy. We hope the Speaker can stand up to the fringe voices and restore the integrity of House to ensure it can address problems our country faces," The group said in a statement. Speaker John Boehner voted for the amendment.

Also this week, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., announced that he will not support the immigration reform bill that he helped draft unless it contains stronger border security provisions. And Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, plans to introduce a border security amendment that Democrats are calling a "poison pill" because it would significantly slow the path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants.

Meanwhile, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, dropped out of a group of eight bipartisan House lawmakers who are working on drafting their own version of immigration reform, over the issue of whether or not to provide health care for unauthorized immigrants.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he hopes to pass the bipartisan immigration reform bill out of the Senate by July 4.